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Twice the Work, Half the Time
"No matter what you do, it will never amount to anything more than a single drop of water in a limitless ocean." - Haskell Moore, 1849

"What is an ocean, but a multitude of drops?" - Adam Ewing, 1849

Tykwer and the Wachowskis did not anticipate working on two fronts when they set out to adapt Cloud Atlas. The logistics of filmmaking were overshadowed then by their focus on capturing the essence of Mitchell's novel. But as the script took shape, the cast assembled and the scope of what they were trying to accomplish became clear, the dual-directing plan emerged as the most efficient. They could shoot in half the time by dividing the effort between two units operating concurrently, each focusing on three of the story's six segments, and each with their own established team of talented collaborators, while the actors moved from one to the other.

"One year before the start of production, we brought the department heads from both crews together for a four-week summit in Berlin so we could all sit down and work through the script," says producer Grant Hill. "We were testing relationships and methods and assessing how this whole thing could work." Taking their cue from the directors, the feeling was overwhelmingly collaborative. "With all these great people open to professional partnership, we realized it would be a matter of providing clear direction and an iron-clad plan, and then harnessing all this firepower."

The Wachowskis navigated Adam Ewing's 1849 ocean voyage, Sonmi's 2144 rebellion and the events of Zachry's life in the 24th century. Their team included production designer Hugh Bateup and director of photography John Toll.

Tom Tykwer captured the journey of musical amanuensis Robert Frobisher in 1936, journalist Luisa Rey's exposé of corporate conspiracy in 1973, and the singular, often comical, predicament of London publisher Cavendish in 2012. Joining him was production designer Uli Hanisch and director of photography Frank Griebe.

Production launched in September 2011 with Tykwer in Scotland and the Wachowskis in Mallorca. Combined, their exterior locations would ultimately include Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Scottish countryside, Saxony, and sites in Berlin, before culminating in Babelsberg's stateof- the-art soundstages for interiors and green screen.

Though countries apart, the trio was in constant touch. "The directors thought through every single detail, every cut and connection between all the pieces of the story and were tremendously prepared prior to shooting," producer Stefan Arndt acknowledges. "During filming, they would call each other to say, 'You have to change something here; when you shoot the next scene, know that the actor is doing this or that.' They were great communicators, really able to share their decisions."

Mallorca provided the settings for the first and last portions of the saga, serving first as the Pacific Island from which Adam Ewing and Autua set sail for America, then as the Hawaiian valley where Zachry lives some 500 years later. Says Lana, "We decided it should be the same island. That, as well as the extremes of the Tom Hanks roles from Goose to Zachry, bookend the first and the final portions of the timeline and help to underscore the theme of recurrence."

The scene in which Ewing encounters Dr. Goose on the beach was filmed in Sa Calobra Cove in Torrent de Pareis, and Horrox's circa 1800s tobacco plantation was created on a private estate in Mallorca's Es Llombards area.

Ewing's ship, The Prophetess, was actually a beautifully preserved and seaworthy period vessel called the Earl of Pembroke, built in Sweden and now docked in Charleston Harbor, Cornwall, by the Square Sail Company. It sailed to meet the production in Mallorca, where it underwent some cosmetic changes. Its captain, Robin Davies, served as marine coordinator for the film, and he and his 15-member crew also appear as extras in the deck scenes.

Inland, the filmmakers found the rugged, mountainous backdrop for Zachry's trek with Meronym, taking advantage of the spectacular view atop Puig Mayor-at 4711 feet, the highest peak of all the Balearic Islands. There, an existing 1950s-era satellite station still maintained by the military was perfectly adaptable for the structure Meronym is seeking.

From Mallorca, the Wachowskis traveled to Saxony in Southeastern Germany, where the region's famous sandstone rock formations and thick forests completed the picture of Zachry's home and the surrounding woods where his family is menaced by the Kona. In constructing the village, Bateup comments, "We didn't want to present this society as too rudimentary, as if they had reverted to the Dark Ages. We decided they were two or three generations beyond a world collapse and had learned how to survive and do things again. They made things from the materials available to them, what they scavenged from cities. They're artisans, not barbarians."

For continuity, the small herd of goats Zachry is seen tending while at the Mallorcan site was transported to Saxony. Joining them were six horses, trained in Spain and brought from Madrid to Saxony for the terrifying Kona attacks on the village. Spanish stunt coordinator Jordi Casares and his team rode the horses in these action sequences, while expert rider and Steadicam operator Jorge Agero was given the decidedly unsteady challenge of filming while riding.

Tykwer, meanwhile, transformed a Glasgow neighborhood with inclined streets into 1973 San Francisco. Signage and lights were replaced and locally sourced period cars brought in for a tense chase and shoot-out as Luisa Rey and Napier scramble to elude the assassin Bill Smoke. Edinburgh's Council Chambers became the hotel where Frobisher escapes down the drainpipe and, later, the city's famous Walter Scott Monument served as his retreat and the place where he last sees the love of his life. The 200-foot monument, heretofore never closed to the public for filming, granted "Cloud Atlas" two days' access so cameras and equipment could be hoisted up to the viewing platform by crane rather than via its narrow spiral staircase.

For Ayrs' stately manor where Frobisher seeks employment, Tykwer and production designer Uli Hanisch joined the locations team in scouting the Scottish countryside to find the privately owned Overtoun House in West Dunbartonshire. It would serve not only as Ayrs' home in 1936, but appear re-dressed as the nightmarish Aurora Country Estates where Cavendish is incarcerated in 2012. "We have nearly 80 years between them so the trees and garden would be different. The strategy was to add things like foliage for the earlier time that we could then remove for the plainer exterior, decades later," notes Hanisch. To further suit the Cavendish scenes they added a conservatory and a formidable front gate.

Symbolically, Tykwer suggests, "It was once the chateau where Ayrs, the elderly composer, tries to imprison young Frobisher, and then a lifetime later it's him, reborn as Cavendish, who finds himself imprisoned in the place where he used to be the warden." It was determined in the film's conceptual stages that certain spaces should likewise be repeated from one part of the story to another. "We wanted to be flexible, however," states Hanisch. "Sometimes it's the real place, sometimes just a hint. Our starting point was Ewing's cabin under the deck of the ship, and we recreated the shape of this room throughout: Cavendish's office, Luisa Rey's apartment, Frobisher's room in Ayrs' mansion, Sonmi's safe house and Zachry's hut."

Thus, the interior of Ayrs' opulent musical salon, built on a soundstage, became the Aurora Country Estates' depressing dining room. The restaurant where Sonmi works, which Bateup designed, boasts a cheerful, brightly lit, virtual atmosphere for consumers to enjoy, but after-hours reveals its grey cavernous reality. "We had to invent a consumer society of 2144 and imagine what a fast-food restaurant would look like. Lana and Andy have definite ideas about how they see these periods so we tossed around ideas and eventually came up with the Sonmi world," he says. After filming wrapped for those scenes, the space was repurposed in black, white and red as the rooftop venue for Cavendish's book reception, where a massive aquarium pays homage to the virtual fish pond of the restaurant's floor.

The designers also established reappearing elements such as trains and bridges that figure in Frobisher's, Cavendish's, Luisa Rey's and Zachry's storylines. Egg-shaped objects also recur, from the toys in the factory that Luisa Rey runs through in San Francisco to the restaurant seats and the recording device of Sonmi's archivist.

"We wanted our depictions of each era to be clear so there's no question whether it's the 1930s or the 1840s," says Hanisch. "At the same time, visual cues and recycled spaces reinforce the idea of connections and the continuity of a single story."

Also responsible for the film's lush and seamless look were cinematographers John Toll and Frank Griebe. "The principal visual design elements were in place when we came onto the film," notes Toll. "One major goal of the cinematography was to blend the look of the individual sequences that spanned 500 years to create an overlapping and rich dramatic feel for the entire story, but not necessarily by trying to create one specific and detailed look for the whole film. Basically, this meant a visual approach that was appropriate to each chapter while still maintaining a sense of continuity throughout."

After meeting to confer on cameras, lenses and film emulsions, Griebe and Toll left for their respective locations but kept track of one another's work via dailies.

Dan Glass, who has worked with the Wachowskis since "The Matrix," led the visual effects department for both units. His work is most evident in the two futuristic settings, particularly the action-driven Sonmi sequences and the simulated atmosphere of the restaurant where she works, but not a single era missed his touch. He helped Tom Tykwerturn Glasgow into San Francisco and constructed its fictional Swannekke Power Station. "Tom is accustomed to shooting with practical locations so we worked more with the physical elements and augmented them. It was a great approach for the material," he says.

The scene in which Luisa Rey traverses the Golden Gate Bridge was filmed partly in a water tank in Cologne and partly on the runway of Germany's former Tempelhof Airport, where the stunt cars collide and her Beetle goes over the rail. The remainder, including the span of bridge and the view of the San Francisco Bay, were digitally rendered.

For 2144 Neo Seoul, the filmmakers imagined a future where increased water levels have submerged the older portions of the city. "They've built vast walls to try to keep the ocean out, and in some of these areas we created tops of skyscrapers poking up from the water to suggest buildings deeper beneath," Glass describes. "Newer parts of the city, where the wealthier people live, we imagined shooting up from the tops of these ruins. As you descend, you come across a more grim and grimy world, the place where Chang's rebellion was born."

Sonmi's escape, and the breathtaking clashes between her champion Chang and the government hit squad that takes them high over Neo Seoul's skyline and through its depths, were filmed with green screen and CGI at Babelsberg, where both units finally converged.

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